Background checks, references important

Look for ways to gather info

Checking a potential employee's background is harder than ever, with previous employers reluctant to give much information about the employee beyond the dates they worked at the organization.

"Even when a former employer indicates whether or not the employee would be rehired, the information is not definitive," says Elizabeth E. Hogue, Esq., a Burtonsville, MD-based attorney who specializes in the home health industry. While background checks with local police might identify some problems, the only reliable check is a national check through the FBI, and that takes months, she adds.

The next best way to evaluate potential employees is to put the onus on the applicant, points out Greg Solecki, vice president of Henry Ford Home Health Care in Detroit. "We ask for the name of a supervisor or manager who would be willing to talk with us, and we ask them to bring in copies of past performance evaluations," he says.

When his staff talks with previous employers, they explain that they have a consent form from the applicant that gives the former employer permission to release information, explains Solecki. "Even with this consent, we have many employers who say they can only confirm dates of employment," he admits. The next step is to "read between the lines," he says. "We explain that they can never get into trouble for releasing positive information, especially with a consent form," he says. If the previous employer says they understand, but they are still not able to say anything, you can make an assumption that there may be something negative about the employee. In these cases, check other sources carefully, he suggests.

Also, trust your gut instinct, says Hogue. "A lot of home health managers and supervisors have been doing this a long time, and there are times that their radar tells them something is wrong," she says. "Trust these feelings, and if the person is already hired, add extra, unannounced supervisory visits," she suggests.

Trusting instinct during the hiring process is important, says Solecki. "As an agency, we've made the decision that we'd rather work without a full staff rather than fill positions with warm bodies. We want to make sure that the employees we send to patients' homes are the right employees for our agency."